Joshua Hupperterz appeared in court Monday and rejected prosecutors’ deal to plead guilty to the murder of junior film and media arts major Jenna Burleigh in August 2017.
Hupperterz, who is accused of killing Burleigh in his off-campus apartment, was offered a third-degree murder plea deal for 30 to 60 years in prison, compared to the life sentence he will face if found guilty of first- or second-degree murder at trial, the Inquirer reported.
Hupperterz told Court of Common Pleas Judge Glenn Bronson he would proceed to trial, which is scheduled to begin Jan. 7.
Prosecutors offered the plea deal on Friday, and the defense considered the plea deal over the weekend, ultimately deciding to proceed to trial. Hupperterz maintains he did not kill Burleigh, said David Nenner, his defense attorney.
Nenner could not immediately be reached for comment.
Burleigh was a first-week transfer student from Montgomery County Community College. She went out with friends to Pub Webb, a bar on Cecil B. Moore Avenue near 16th Street, the night of Aug. 30, 2017.
Police obtained security footage from Pub Webb and businesses on Cecil B. Moore Avenue showing Burleigh leaving the bar with Hupperterz around 2 a.m. on Aug. 31, 2017, heading in the direction of his apartment on 16th Street near Cecil B. Moore Avenue.
Noelle Sterling, a graduate student in the Lewis Katz School of Medicine who lived above Hupperterz’s first-floor rear apartment, testified during a preliminary hearing on Nov. 29, 2017 that she made two calls to Temple Police in the early morning hours of Aug. 31, 2017 to report banging sounds she heard from the apartment’s backyard. Her second call was prompted by screams coming from the backyard.
“It was like a horror movie, but worse,” she said.
Temple Police responded to both calls and conducted searches of the apartment building hallways and backyard area “in accordance with accepted police practice,” a university spokesperson told The Temple News in December 2017.
Burleigh’s father reported her missing to Temple and Lower Salford Township police later that evening.
6abc reported Hupperterz’s roommate told police on Sept. 1, 2017 that the roommate returned home to cleaning products, and it appeared like someone had attempted to clean up blood. Police then obtained a search warrant for the apartment.
Police found blood near the kitchen sink, the apartment’s rear door and on a trash can lid. In the apartment, police also found 10 to 15 pillow case-sized bags of marijuana and $20,000 in cash, the Inquirer reported.
Police first made contact with Hupperterz by phone, then decided to take him into custody for questioning. Hupperterz was found at his grandmother’s house in Wayne County, Pennsylvania, where Burleigh’s body would later be found, but police maintain Burleigh was killed in Hupperterz’s apartment.
Hupperterz is accused of moving Burleigh’s body twice. Once, in a storage bin to his mother’s home in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania, where it remained overnight, then transferred by Lyft, a ride-sharing service, to his grandmother’s house on Sept. 2, 2017.
While in custody, Hupperterz admitted to “elements of the crime,” said Philadelphia Police Capt. John Ryan in a press conference on Sept. 2, 2017.